January 11, 2010

One Approach to Org Twitter Accounts

I’ve been mulling over this post for sev­eral weeks now, but a con­ver­sa­tion that hap­pened on Twit­ter today prompted me to finally write and pub­lish it. It started when Ken­ley Neufeld wrote a post about par­tic­i­pat­ing in ALA and tweeted the link. Cyndi E. engaged Ken­ley in a con­ver­sa­tion about ALA fol­low­ing its mem­bers back on Twit­ter, which led Ken­ley to ask ALA’s Mid­win­ter Meet­ing account what its fol­low pol­icy is.

what's your follow policy?

Well, I work for ALA, and I run that account (along with three oth­ers), plus my per­sonal one. The “royal” ALA has no offi­cial social media pol­icy, although there is an inter­nal staff task force work­ing on one. I’m not on that group and I haven’t wanted to step on any toes, which is why I haven’t said much online about this topic, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought through some things for the accounts I man­age. Given today’s con­ver­sa­tion, I thought I’d share my approach and solicit feed­back for what you think is and isn’t working.

Before I go any fur­ther, though, I want to note that I kind of fly by the seat of my pants with this stuff at work. I already have a cou­ple of full time roles (as does pretty much every­one at ALA HQ), and track­ing what’s said about MPOW online is pretty near impos­si­ble these days. Amongst the good and bad about the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion, the term “ALA” also gets used for A List Apart (espe­cially when they pub­lish a new issue), the abbre­vi­a­tion for “Alabama” in news reports, Ala Moana in Hon­olulu, ala mode, “ala” mean­ing “in the style of,” in Span­ish, and more. I do the best I can, but no one per­son could catch it all unless it was their only job respon­si­bil­ity. I know a lot of folks strug­gle to get sup­port from the top in their orga­ni­za­tion, and I’m lucky that this isn’t one of the bat­tles I have to fight.

All of which is my way of say­ing, your mileage may vary, even within ALA. These are just my thoughts for how I’m han­dling four Twit­ter accounts at work, and I’d love to hear how you think I could do this bet­ter. Maybe this list willl even give you some pro­ce­dural ideas for your own institution’s efforts.

I mainly mon­i­tor and man­age Twit­ter and Friend­Feed accounts, so that’s where I focus my efforts. I’m lucky that oth­ers have taken on the man­tle of man­ag­ing ALA’s Face­book, LinkedIn, Sec­ond Life, and YouTube pres­ences. These are the guide­lines I’ve been fol­low­ing for Twit­ter (I still need to imple­ment most of these on FriendFeed).

  1. My goals for the accounts are to lis­ten, answer ques­tions, inter­act, and inform.
  2. I fol­low most pub­lic accounts that fol­low us, as long as its not a spam­mer, bot, or “social media expert” who has thou­sands of fol­low­ers. I don’t have any­thing against the gurus, but they’re not the audi­ence I want to inter­act with. It may take me a week to log in and fol­low all the new folks, but that’s my goal. I’m some­what pas­sive about this because of the lack of an easy way to han­dle fol­low­ers from one source, although right now I’m actively try­ing to fol­low any human being who say they’re attend­ing our Mid­win­ter Meet­ing this week. I do this to make it eas­ier to lis­ten and respond, plus it gives these folks the abil­ity to direct mes­sage us.
  3. The excep­tion to rule #2 is that I don’t fol­low pri­vate accounts. I real­ize some folks make their accounts pri­vate to avoid spam­mers, but I can’t tell those from the folks who truly want their tweets to be pri­vate. As an orga­ni­za­tional account that mul­ti­ple staff mem­bers might have access to, I don’t want to expose those tweets or set up a sit­u­a­tion where some­one might acci­den­tally retweet some­thing private.
  4. I try to do more than just click a book­marklet, so I’ll rephrase con­tent to get it down to 130 char­ac­ters or some­how add value to the head­line of a press release. I try to be human and avoid mar­ket­ing speak, and I don’t get hung up on cap­i­tal­iza­tion, even though my under­grad­u­ate degree is in journalism.
  5. I do my best to shoot for 130 char­ac­ters to pro­vide for easy retweetability.
  6. Although this doesn’t apply to all orga­ni­za­tions, I’m a big believer in the “right of first tweet.” Within ALA, there’s no one “mas­ter” Twit­ter account for the Asso­ci­a­tion as a whole. Instead, every office, divi­sion, round table, etc., has its own account. In order to help build the audi­ence for those accounts and give credit, I try to not announce news first that really belongs to other ALA units. Instead, I do my best to retweet their tweets. That doesn’t always hap­pen, but I think it’s their right to have the first shot at it.
  7. Some­thing new I’ve been try­ing lately is to avoid retweet­ing some­one else’s con­tent imme­di­ately after they tweet it, espe­cially if they’ve used a hash­tag. Instead, I use Hoot­Suite to sched­ule the tweet at a dif­fer­ent time of day in order to try to reach a dif­fer­ent audi­ence that may not have seen the orig­i­nal one. If it was a morn­ing tweet, I’ll sched­ule the retweet for the after­noon, and vice versa.
  8. I’m cur­rently using bit.ly to shorten URLs so that I can get sta­tis­tics for how often links are being fol­lowed. I also try to use cus­tom bit.ly URLs for links I know I’ll re-use a lot. I fer­vently wish Hoot­Suite would get rid of the frames on its ow.ly ser­vice or at least give URL cre­ators the option to turn them off. Until then, I’ll keep using bit.ly.
  9. I delib­er­ately retweet from indi­vid­u­als, not just other ALA units or orga­ni­za­tions. My take on it is that we’re all in this together, and we’re all part of the con­ver­sa­tion. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll be retweet­ing every­thing posted to the #nopants tag. ;-)
  10. Rather than count­ing the num­ber of fol­low­ers as a met­ric, I’ve started track­ing con­ver­sa­tions. I still haven’t found what I con­sider to be an opti­mal way to do this, but for the moment, I’m clip­ping tweets to a note­book in my Ever­note account (I’m on the free ser­vice for now) so that I can find them again. Because it’s so dif­fi­cult to track the term “ALA,” I haven’t found an easy way to report out what’s being said about us, other than by man­u­ally writ­ing up an email.
  11. Per­son­ally, I have an unlim­ited text mes­sag­ing plan (I <3 texting), so I use notify.me to have Twit­ter men­tions sent to my phone via SMS so that I get imme­di­ate alerts when some­one men­tions or directs a tweet to one of the ALA accounts. If you don’t want to go the SMS route, you can have the noti­fi­ca­tions sent to an email address, instant mes­sag­ing account, or to a desk­top app/widget. And this setup doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean I respond right away, espe­cially if I’m out with friends, watch­ing a movie, or if it’s late at night. I’ve worked hard to bal­ance my work and per­sonal lives, and so far it’s work­ing fairly well. But the notice gives me a heads up, and I can then assess the urgency.

Those are the var­i­ous Twit­ter issues I’ve thought through so far. Based on some other prob­lems that have come up at work, I have some gen­eral advice for other orga­ni­za­tions using social sites.

  • Did you know that the per­son who cre­ates a Face­book page can never be removed? Never, ever, ever, ever plus a day. The only way is to delete the person’s account, which an orga­ni­za­tion can’t do if it’s a per­sonal account. So be care­ful about who cre­ates your organization’s page(s), because you’ll never be able to remove that per­son as an admin. You can add other admins, but you can’t remove the orig­i­nal cre­ator. Add my voice to the cho­rus of frus­trated users who wish Face­book would change this pol­icy yesterday.
  • Be very care­ful when you’re set­ting up your bit.ly links. If you acci­den­tally paste in the wrong URL (which I’ve done), you can’t go back and change it. Ever, as in ever plus a day. If you mess up a cus­tom URL, you’ll never be able to get it back. Ever. Did I men­tion ever?
  • And speak­ing of bit.ly, if you haven’t already done this, you might want to go grab the most obvi­ous cus­tom bit.ly URLs for your orga­ni­za­tion so that some­one else doesn’t use/steal/hijack them. Espe­cially if you want a short and easy way to point to your own site on Twit­ter and get sta­tis­tics for num­ber of clicks. You can decide if you want to do this on other URL short­en­ing ser­vices, too.

So those are some quick thoughts that have been swim­ming around in my head. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how I can do this bet­ter, and what you’d like to see from the ALA accounts I run.

August 21, 2009

Another Reason for Libraries to Make Their Sites Social

Now that I’m on a smart­phone that has a real web browser and is capa­ble of mul­ti­task­ing (the Palm Pre), In fact, I find myself expect­ing it to act like my lap­top. I’ve stopped car­ry­ing my lap­top or my net­book to work each day because I can do so much on my phone, but I’m still notic­ing where deci­sions made by web design­ers make my mobile life easier.

So here’s mobile devel­oper tip #1, my two cents: use plu­g­ins and wid­gets that let users auto­mat­i­cally share your con­tent on sites like Twit­ter, Deli­cious, Face­book, etc., because you’ll make the user’s life eas­ier. Granted, not all phones sup­port the Javascript that pow­ers this type of ser­vice on a web page, but more and more will, so con­sider get­ting ahead of the curve and adding it now.

The alter­na­tive for me as the reader (acknowl­edg­ing each person’s sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent) is to:

  1. Leave the site up in a card until I get home in the evening and can man­u­ally book­mark it on my lap­top. This works about 50% of the time.
  2. Email the site to myself so I can book­mark it later on my lap­top. This works about 80% of the time but is annoying.
  3. Try remem­ber­ing to revisit the site later on my lap­top to book­mark it. This works 0% of the time.

As a result, I’m find­ing that I’m far more likely to book­mark some­thing if there’s a direct link to post it to Deli­cious, and that work­flow will con­tinue for me until there’s a Pre app that makes this eas­ier, which means I really appre­ci­ate sites that offer this. Even bet­ter is if you can add it so that it appears in your RSS feed so that it shows up in places like Google Reader and Blog­lines, too.

Here are some options to con­sider for adding this func­tion­al­ity to your site.

  • For Word­Press blogs, you can use the Socia­ble plu­gin (I’m sure there are oth­ers, but this is what I use so I know it works). I have another blog post brew­ing on this topic, but this is yet another rea­son I encour­age libraries to make their “what’s new” page a blog — you can then use the wealth of plu­g­ins out there to improve the user’s experience.

    Sociable WordPress plugin

  • For Dru­pal sites, you can use some­thing like the Share mod­ule (I’m going to look into this for ALA Con­nect. If you’re using a dif­fer­ent CMS, check to see if there’s a sim­i­lar mod­ule for it.
  • Fail­ing that, or even for use on gen­eral web pages, check out some­thing like the Add This wid­get, although I have to admit I’m not sure how acces­si­ble it is.

Regard­less, this can be a rel­a­tively easy way to help meet the needs of your mobile users, a group that’s just going to grow in the future. Food for thought. Nom nom nom.

11:17 am Comments (6)

March 24, 2009


Some­times we tell peo­ple that things live for­ever on the inter­net and that any­one can find them (so don’t post that pic­ture of your­self drink­ing alco­hol, young man), but I want to high­light how some impor­tant things from just a cou­ple of months ago are becom­ing impos­si­ble to find. If we’re not care­ful, the haystack is going to dis­ap­pear, never mind the needle.

For exam­ple, take the dis­cus­sion that hap­pened on Twit­ter dur­ing ALA’s Mid­win­ter Meet­ing just under two months ago. The Meet­ing had a hash­tag for track­ing con­tent (#alamw09), and almost every­one used it most of the time. There was a lot going on in that tag, so much so that I thought it was a tip­ping point for the Asso­ci­a­tion in terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools. I even debriefed what hap­pened on Twit­ter for ALA staff after­wards so that they’d be able to see the patterns.

But try to find that dis­cus­sion now, and it’s almost impos­si­ble. Most peo­ple (includ­ing me) rely on Twitter’s search engine (which was for­merly called “Sum­mize” and run by a dif­fer­ent com­pany until Twit­ter bought it). If you search Twit­ter now for the #alamw09 hash­tag, you get exactly one page of results (yes­ter­day there were two), and only a cou­ple of those tweets were actu­ally posted dur­ing the event itself. If you look up #alamw09 at hashtags.org, you’ll get more results from the Meet­ing itself, but there’s still only one page, and you had to have man­u­ally fol­lowed the hashtags.org Twit­ter account for them to have tracked your tweets, so even if you could see older results than what shows, it would be an incom­plete archive at best. Search Tech­no­rati for #alamw09 and you get eight blog posts. Iron­i­cally, you can get most of the pub­lic tweets from Mid­win­ter by search­ing Friend­Feedlooking for anything from #ala2008 on Twitter, although there again FriendFeed saves the day, but for how long?

So for all of our aggregation attempts of that Twitter content, they may only work in the moment for the moment. It turns out they're mis­cel­la­neous *and* search­able in only one place (for now), a pretty bad com­bi­na­tion in hind­sight. Thank heav­ens I favor­ited in Twit­ter so many of the alamw09 tweets, although that’s still not ideal. I have to man­u­ally page through them to find the ones I want, and I already have 35 pages of favorites.

After Mid­win­ter, I tried to start mov­ing my #alamw09 favorites into Ever­note so that I’d be able to search and group them, but I haven’t had time to com­plete that process, and I just can’t seem to train myself to add new tweets there as I favorite them. The ratio of effort between click­ing on a star and fill­ing out a few words of meta­data is just too much in the mid­dle of my day, so this looms as a project in my future if I really want to save this stuff. Even then, there’s no guar­an­tee Ever­note will stick around, but at least I can export from it.

So if you were using a hash­tag to aggre­gate con­tent, think­ing it would be eas­ier to find it all again in the future, think again. You’re going to have to do some­thing more proac­tive and man­ual than rely­ing on Twitter’s search engine or Google. You’ll have to decide what level of ephemer­a­li­ness you’re com­fort­able with for that con­ver­sa­tion, because you may not be able to get back to it if you let some­one else man­age access to the archive. In this con­text, it’s a shame so much of the con­ver­sa­tion has moved away from blog com­ments (where indi­vid­u­als can openly archive it) to Twit­ter and Friend­Feed. And if you’re a gov­ern­ment or archive orga­ni­za­tion look­ing to pre­serve this kind of dig­i­tal con­tent, the stakes are get­ting raised on you.

Am I miss­ing any other options for find­ing past hash­tag con­ver­sa­tions? Please tell me yes in the comments.

Adden­dum: Poten­tial ideas for archiv­ing — you could sub­scribe to the RSS feed of a hash­tag in an RSS reader and export them, right? Or sub­scribe to the RSS feed via email? Other ideas?

March 5, 2009

PCMA Presentation: Embracing Free Technology in a Global Recession

Today I was part of a panel ses­sion about Web 2.0 tools for the GMC/PCMA

Greg Fine — Asso­ci­a­tion Forum

showed some of their Asso­ci­a­tion Pro­fes­sion­als through­out His­tory video
showed the map of online com­mu­ni­ties from 2007 (“gulf of youtube”)
social media is about build­ing com­mu­nity, and Greg likes this visual because it shows there are actual places and you can’t just aim­lessly wan­der around
– it lets you lever­age exist­ing net­works
– it allows us to eas­ily cre­ate and share infor­ma­tion with one another (as asso­ci­a­tions, we’re about asso­ci­at­ing)
– allows this to hap­pen in an instan­ta­neous way
– on a plat­form that peo­ple are com­fort­able with
so if we as orga­ni­za­tions lever­age these plat­forms, we make it eas­ier for our mem­bers to find us and inter­act with us
– it allows you to evan­ge­lize your mem­bers and your customers

there are gen­er­a­tional dis­tinc­tions — gen­er­ally accepted dis­tinc­tions
uses accept­able footwear for men on day one of their new job as way to dis­tin­guish between them
great­est gen­er­a­tion — wingtips
Xers — black lace-up, but moved to the boat shoe
Millennials/GenY — ten­nis shoes
Gamers — flip-flops
can’t talk to a flip-flop from a wingtip per­spec­tive
even the ten­nis show crowd may not totally get the flip-flop one
also have the 80–20-1 rule
80% of peo­ple who are on the inter­net only look/lurk and don’t engage
20% of the 80% actively engage (read RSS, have a Face­book page)
1% of that 20% are active users of social media online (blog, post to Wikipedia, etc.)
EXCEPT for the gamers, where the num­bers are reversed
only 1% are not active online, etc.

the #1 rule is that the orga­ni­za­tion totally loses con­trol in this envi­ron­ment
if some­one wants to say some­thing bad about you, they don’t need your site/platform to do it
so embrace it
do you use free or pro­pri­etary and build your own?
Greg is a big believer in free
– free
– pro­pri­etary usu­ally means sep­a­rate authen­ti­ca­tion scheme and peo­ple have pass­word fatigue now
– do you have an open or closed sys­tem (can any­one be a mem­ber or is it a mem­ber benefit)

Asso­ci­a­tion Forum makes every­thing open because if you care enough to join, maybe you’ll even­tu­ally become a mem­ber
there’s no right or wrong, but you need to be delib­er­ate about what you’re going to do

set rea­son­able expec­ta­tions
men­tioned a case where a group thought they’d failed because they only had 1,200 peo­ple on their Face­book page
but they only had 10,000 mem­bers total!

you can­not think like you — you have to think like your audi­ence
just because you don’t use it doesn’t mean oth­ers shouldn’t
oth­ers may cre­ate these sites (like a Face­book page) for you if you don’t do it
you have to inte­grate it with tra­di­tional meth­ods
you don’t just do one thing in iso­la­tion — f2f, email newslet­ters, etc. are still valid
taken all together, it makes it all more valuable

it’s like a foot­ball expe­ri­ence — it’s the future of the asso­ci­a­tion expe­ri­ence
the audi­ence in the sta­dium are the mem­bers, who paid admis­sion
within that audi­ence are dif­fer­ent lev­els (box seats ver­sus bleach­ers)
over time, our expe­ri­ences inside the sta­dium may be more valu­able than just being a member

some tools:
– Face­book
– Forum Effect (blogging)

Flickr — an online pic­ture shar­ing site that lets you tag images
showed pic­tures tagged with ASAE
user-generated con­tent (pic­tures from atten­dees)
every­body has a cell phone these days, and these phones have cam­eras
35,000 pic­tures were posted from a con­fer­ence when they asked peo­ple to take a few and then they had a down­load station

YouTube — videos
when some­one comes in to present now, they do a “5 ques­tions with xxxx speaker” video
total time invest­ment per video is one hour, includ­ing the inter­view
they also allow the per­son to use the video, too

LinkedIn and Face­book
don’t upload your mem­ber list to a third-party site to require peo­ple who join are mem­bers, because this is a vio­la­tion of your mem­bers’ pri­vacy
let any­one become a mem­ber on your page
takes five min­utes to set this stuff up

strat­egy is impor­tant!
when you’re think­ing about all of this
Asso­ci­a­tion Forum uses these sites as guide­posts to help peo­ple get to the Forum website

Brad Lewis — Pro­fes­sional Con­ven­tion Man­age­ment Association

lux­ury expen­di­tures” — travel
is in the media coun­ter­ing these neg­a­tive per­cep­tions and the dis­tinc­tions between legit­i­mate travel and these types of excesses

PCMA uses:
– Face­book
– Flickr
– LinkedIn
– blog on Type­Pad
– YouTube

goals for PCMA:
– want to be where their mem­bers are
– need to par­tic­i­pate in the cur­rent tech­nolo­gies
– facil­i­tate con­nec­tions
– cre­ate mem­ber engage­ment, reten­tion
– brand expe­ri­ence; how can your mem­bers inter­act with you?
– enhanced expo­sure for events, pro­grams, prod­ucts, and ser­vices
– cre­ate added value
– learn some­thing new every day

their most suc­cess­ful site is LinkedIn
rec­om­mend to their chap­ters that they cre­ate sites, too
you do lose some control

PCMA has 6,000 mem­bers and more than 1,000 have joined the LinkedIn group
PCMA posts new con­tent there and posts event news
no hard sells there
eases peo­ple into par­tic­i­pa­tion in the orga­ni­za­tion
present jobs, speaker info
most of the room was already on LinkedIn
from an asso­ci­a­tion stand­point, your mem­bers can already do a mul­ti­tude of things there (and on these other sites)
one sign-on
try to make your name the sign across plat­forms
want the full name and the acronym because you don’t know what peo­ple will search on

mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol:
– wild west; just need to accept that because you can’t pre­vent it
PCMA does delete some stuff like direct sales solic­i­ta­tions
– does take a staff com­mit­ment, regard­less of which depart­ment is assigned to mon­i­tor
– think about how you’re fos­ter­ing and feed­ing the com­mu­nity, too; that’s why you want to choose which sites are best for you and your members

PCMA doesn’t mind when peo­ple say a ses­sion was hor­ri­ble, because it gives them feedback

take action:
– work with mar­ket­ing to cre­ate a group, work with mem­ber­ship to update it
– if you’re not mon­i­tor­ing what’s hap­pen­ing, your com­pe­ti­tion prob­a­bly is
– mon­i­tor for refer­ral requests (“who knows of a good xxxx com­pany?”), even if you don’t answer back
Brad encour­ages third party responses

what it’s for:
– net­work­ing with col­leagues
– get updates
– ask ques­tions
– gain insights
– share ideas

what it’s not for:
– solic­it­ing (it’s like using the wrong fork at din­ner)
– direct promotion

aver­age age of a PCMA mem­ber is 47
one of the young kids at a table didn’t know what LinkedIn was — “face­book for old people”

– tar­get mar­ket seg­men­ta­tion
– stu­dents (announce schol­ar­ships, intern­ships, com­mu­ni­ca­tion with PCMA stu­dent staff)
– cre­ate event
– dis­cus­sion boards (stu­dents were vol­un­tar­ily mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to oth­ers about join­ing PCMA)

– annual meet­ing (linked from com­mu­ni­ca­tions, pho­tos for dailies, mem­ber engage­ment even if they can’t attend)
– social net­work­ing cen­tered around pho­tos
– share pho­tos within groups and tags

Type­Pad blog
– new PCMA Chair­man John Folks’ blog
– puts face on lead­er­ship
– way for lead­er­ship to con­nect with mem­bers and get feed­back
– start con­ver­sa­tions among colleagues

PCMA has a YouTube chan­nel
– some lead­er­ship hasn’t wanted to be on YouTube
– only have a few select videos but it’s a good way to put a face on the orga­ni­za­tion and tell stories

pro­pri­etary sys­tems
PCMA did pur­chase an expen­sive prod­uct for “PCMA Con­nect“
– can trial on free before you try pro­pri­etary
– had bells and whis­tles but was a sep­a­rate destination

– con­ver­sa­tion hap­pens organ­i­cally
– hot top­ics are anonymity, reluc­tance to speak your mind, gen­eral best has been more social (New Year’s res­o­lu­tions)
be rel­e­vant to the peo­ple who con­nect with you

philoso­phies and con­clu­sions
– your mem­ber pro­file will deter­mine which plat­form works best for you
– lead­er­ship accep­tance, need some buy-in
– cer­tainly trial this stuff
these are just new assets in the arse­nal, and they’re even free
– impor­tant to engage in rel­e­vant busi­ness of today

Jenny Levine (me)

here are my slides (12MB, PDF)

10:19 pm Comments (0)

February 27, 2009

Twitter on ALA and Some Advice

Going into ALA’s Mid­win­ter Meet­ing last month, I knew Twit­ter was going to play a much more promi­nent role than it had in the past. It’s been used heav­ily at other librar­ian con­fer­ences, but usu­ally in a more social way or as com­men­tary on con­tent dur­ing the event. How­ever, Mid­win­ter is a dif­fer­ent beast, as it’s pri­mar­ily a busi­ness meet­ing for the Asso­ci­a­tion, so I won­dered how much of that work would hap­pen on Twit­ter this time around.

Most of the peo­ple on ALA’s staff, like most peo­ple any­where, have never heard of Twit­ter, let alone used it, so I wanted to give them a heads up in case it came up in meet­ings or in con­ver­sa­tions. A cou­ple of years ago, the IT depart­ment at ALA imple­mented monthly update meet­ings open to all staff, and since we had one sched­uled right before Mid­win­ter, I took advan­tage of the oppor­tu­nity to high­light Twit­ter, what it is, and how a few units are using it.

And then we all headed to Denver.

And wow did Twit­ter play a big part. Ken­ley Neufeld sums it up pretty well, and even notes how fun the expe­ri­ence was. If you had asked me, I wouldn’t have pre­dicted that four coun­cilors would tweet from the floor dur­ing coun­cil ses­sions, thereby pro­vid­ing an effec­tive, real-time tran­script of what was hap­pen­ing. Even beyond that, though, I got to par­tic­i­pate in meet­ings I wasn’t phys­i­cally at (from within other meet­ings), as did peo­ple who weren’t even in Den­ver. And good things came from all of it (includ­ing a help­ful guide for what *not* to do).

So when we got back, I decided to do a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Feb­ru­ary ITTS Update meet­ing about Twit­ter on ALA. Not ALA on Twit­ter, but Twitter’s effect on the Asso­ci­a­tion and the story of Mid­win­ter that Twit­ter pro­duced. Luck­ily, many of the peo­ple who tweet about us have a sense of humor, so there were some good laughs in the screen­shots, espe­cially about our con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem (Col­lage). So thank you to every­one who pub­licly tweeted about us in Jan­u­ary, espe­cially at Mid­win­ter, because you helped me illus­trate a moment in time when some­thing changed for ALA. I def­i­nitely think com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­fer­ences will never be the same for our orga­ni­za­tion, and I’m fas­ci­nated to see where this all leads.

The only prob­lem with doing these two talks for staff is that I’m so buried in work on launch­ing ALA Con­nect that I don’t have time to do any train­ing right now. Ear­lier this month, Tim­o­thy Vollmer, an ALA employee at our Wash­ing­ton Office tweeted, “in hor­ri­ble ironic moment, U.S. Con­gress is mov­ing faster than ALA.”

For the last month, that’s how I’ve felt at ALA. Units are mov­ing faster than I can, and sev­eral have started new Twit­ter accounts. On the one hand, huz­zah! On the other hand, they’re fly­ing a lit­tle blind (so please cut them a lit­tle slack while they get their Twit­ter sea legs).

Since I really don’t have time to do train­ing right now, I wanted to pull together a few resources to point my co-workers to until we can do some­thing more for­mal. I’m also includ­ing some expla­na­tions for how I track ALA on Twit­ter in case oth­ers want to try these strate­gies, too.

Since I think it could be use­ful to oth­ers, I’m post­ing the list here, rather than just send­ing the infor­ma­tion out in an email to staff. If you have addi­tional sug­ges­tions, please include them in the comments.

  1. Make sure you read up on some of the best prac­tices for using Twit­ter. There are many out there, such as Twit­ter 101: 8 Tips to Get Started on Twit­ter and How to Suc­ceed at Twit­ter. At bare min­i­mum, make sure you add an avatar and fill out the bio sec­tion, includ­ing a link back to your web­site.
  2. I use Twit­ter per­son­ally, and I use the ALAan­nual and ALAmw accounts for work. It’s not easy to track two accounts through­out the day. So here’s the rou­tine I’ve estab­lished to this point.
    1. First thing in the morn­ing, I search Twit­ter for ref­er­ences to ALA. If it’s some­thing I can respond to, I do. If it’s not some­thing in my area (IT), I pass along the information.
    2. I use Tweet­Deck to try to track my Twit­ter­stream through­out the day. It’s eas­ily the best tool I’ve found for two rea­sons. First, it lets me set up dif­fer­ent groups of peo­ple I’m fol­low­ing, so I’ve set up a group show­ing all the ALA Twit­ter accounts and another of friends I want to track more closely. Sec­ond, it lets me do a search within groups by fil­ter­ing for a term. So a cou­ple of times a day, I’ll fil­ter every­one I’m fol­low­ing for the term “ALA.” I can usu­ally get a heads up about any­thing major just by doing this. At the end of the day, I do another search of Twit­ter just to make sure I haven’t missed any­thing. ALA staff, if you want to try Tweet­Deck, I think ITTS will have to install it for you, so con­tact us to request an install. There’s also a help­ful video explain­ing How to Tweet­deck Like a Pro.
  3. I have a NetVibes page set up to track ALA as a term across mul­ti­ple sites. For exam­ple, the Twit­ter search appears here, although I don’t find it as easy to scan as the list on the Twit­ter site or in Tweet­Deck. But I also have RSS feeds from news sites and Friend­Feed dis­play­ing on this one page, so it can be handy for a quick scan. ALA staff, if you want help set­ting up some­thing like this for your­self, please let me know.
  4. If you have a blog or other use­ful, not over­whelm­ing RSS feed, use Twit­ter­Feed to auto­mat­i­cally have noti­fi­ca­tions of new items sent to Twit­ter.
  5. If you’re not using Tweet­Deck to auto­mat­i­cally shorten URLs, you can use TinyURL or is.gd. A URL like http://www.ala.org/heading/subheading/anotherheading/anothersubheading/title/index.cfm should *never* appear in a tweet.

As I was get­ting ready to hit the “pub­lish” but­ton, I saw Phil Bradley’s post about CILIP and Twit­ter (or lack thereof). It made me real­ize how far ALA has come, and how lucky I am to work in an envi­ron­ment where I’m allowed to exper­i­ment in these spaces and help inte­grate them into the Asso­ci­a­tion. I live in a really spe­cial place right now, both pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally, and I don’t take that for granted.

February 2, 2009

Dispatch from the GenX Bridge

I’ve really been feel­ing my Gen Xness the last few months. I dis­like fram­ing Web 2.0 or Library 2.0 as gen­er­a­tional issues (I think it has far more to do with whether you’re used to cre­at­ing and shar­ing con­tent over­all), but the rise of Twit­ter and Friend­Feed in par­tic­u­lar have made me feel like even more of a bridge because I get stretched thin try­ing to explain both sides of an issue to two groups who aren’t really talk­ing to each other about these things. Like Johnny Cash, I walk the line.

As a GenX bridge, one side of me under­stands the Boomer con­fu­sion at these pub­lic posts and won­ders why these folks can’t just call, email, or text a per­son who could actu­ally do some­thing about the prob­lem they’re encoun­ter­ing. Recently, I felt this most acutely when Jason Grif­fey took the time to write a blog post dis­agree­ing with two rules for sub­mit­ting ques­tions to ALA pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates on YouTube. I’m close enough to the tra­di­tional, Boomer norms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that when I first read Jason’s post, my imme­di­ate reac­tion was to sigh and won­der why he couldn’t have just con­tacted some­one at MPOW to request that the rules be changed. The “direct” approach seems like the log­i­cal one for affect­ing change and hav­ing your voice heard.

And then the Mil­len­nial side of the bridge kicked in and I chided myself, because Jason actu­ally cared enough to take the time to write that post instead of just a 140-character rant. He explained his rea­son­ing in what has (sur­pris­ingly) become a long-form medium online (blog­ging). In hind­sight, his post helped change one of the rules he dis­agreed with, so it was bet­ter that he posted pub­licly where every­one could read it and com­ment, includ­ing us. And hon­estly, some of the com­ments on microblog­ging sites are com­plaints that some­one did try to call or email a human being and didn’t get a good response, so it’s not that these gen­er­a­tional pref­er­ences are exclu­sive. Writ­ing a blog post these days is a pretty high level of engage­ment, and car­ing enough to post a tweet or Friend­Feed com­ment is right behind that in terms of try­ing to get our atten­tion (hey, at least MPOW isn’t mediocre).

My per­sonal les­son from these recent expe­ri­ences is that it’s impor­tant for asso­ci­a­tions (and libraries) to under­stand that every blog post, every tweet, every FF com­ment is like a let­ter to the edi­tor or some­one stand­ing up in a mem­ber­ship meet­ing and voic­ing a com­plaint. They’re the 21st cen­tury equiv­a­lent of a phone call or a con­ver­sa­tion in the hall­way at a con­fer­ence, and we have to take them just as seri­ously and respond to them the same way we would those 20th cen­tury meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It’s not that Boomers want to help any less, but I think they’re used to help­ing peo­ple one-on-one, even online. For many mem­bers who likely trend younger, the new chan­nels are their pre­ferred ones for these types of com­ments, and not just for com­plaints. There isn’t any­thing wrong with either approach, but they’re ships cross­ing in the night, and they don’t lead to con­ver­sa­tions between the two sides that would improve communication.

Some­times I think attack­ing MPOW is a national sport, so it can be depress­ing being the per­son con­stantly relay­ing what’s being said about us online. But it’s impor­tant for those of us in the mid­dle to be that bridge and find com­pro­mises that work for every­one. So I espe­cially appre­ci­ate those folks who take the time to com­ment online in a con­struc­tive way (regard­less of the chan­nel), because it helps me build that bridge.

This strain isn’t new, but I’m curi­ous to know if other Gen Xers are feel­ing an increase in this area due to microblog­ging sites? Have you found suc­cess­ful strate­gies for improv­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion around these new chan­nels? I have some ideas that I’m going to try to imple­ment at work, and I’ll report back here over time, but I’d love to hear how oth­ers are han­dling being at this intersection.

January 13, 2009

Help for 2 Twitter Acounts through 1 Cell Phone?

Lazy­web request: Does any­one have any ideas for how to run two Twit­ter accounts through one cell phone using just text mes­sages? I know I can do it through email or on the web on the phone, but I really want the instant, push noti­fi­ca­tion that SMS pro­vides. Help me, Lazyweb!

6:39 am Comments (2)

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